An Interview With Anthony Schmidt, Gen2's Vocalist & Lead Guitarist
An inspirational, in-depth interview with Gen2's vocalist & lead guitarist Anthony Schmidt, on practical tips, insights into his gear, jamming with Steve Vai on stage, and more.
Magesh, Musicngear: Gen2's current single Royals just passed 210,000 views on YouTube, and your first single Fire of Love is rapidly approaching 500,000 views! Your guitar sound is bone-crunching on these tracks. Could you let me know what your guitar/amp setup was for this song?
All of my guitar tracks on these songs, and indeed the entire album, are from my collection DK Alloy Guitars. I’ve been sponsored by DK Alloy for over 5 years, and they really are the only guitars I use now, both live and in the studio - which is amusing considering the guitar collection I have, and the number of guitars that now NEVER get used!
From an amp perspective, I use a combination of amps in the studio, but most of this album was done through Line6 Bogner 100w valve head with dual Marshall ‘A’ Quad boxes (each with 4 x 30w greenback Celestions) with a little Sans Amp action over the top.
I think the trick with all of my guitar sounds nowadays, is that it mostly comes down to ‘good ol’ fashioned valve drive’ and volume from the amps. From there, I add a variety of compressions and additional ‘tube screamer’ type overdrives, delays and wahs (depending on the track) layered over that amp sound for lead breaks, etc., but on the whole, it’s just valves and volume – which is a LONG way from my heavily processed 80s and 90s sounds.
Importantly, being in a band with two lead guitarists, we’ve tweaked my sound so it also works well with Claude’s sound, which is Gibson LPs through Ulbrick amps and cabs. The two sounds really complement each other well – blending when they need to and standing apart when they need to, without completely overpowering the rhythm section in the mix.
When I first heard Gen2's music, I commented on how expensive the mixes sounded. Are you using a lot of high-end pre-amps and microphones in the studio?
When we started recording this album, Chris Gatz (my co-producer and engineer) and I decided that we were going to try and create something special, and from that, we really took a ‘no expense spared’ approach to hardware, software and, perhaps most importantly, studio time. GM Sound Studios are really well fitted out with a great variety of high-quality mics, preamps, and outboard gear, as well as the absolute latest in software.
Be that as it may, the sound you hear is as much the result of many hundreds of hours of work in the studio as it is great mics, preamps, and outboards.
So many albums now are thrown together with preset or ‘AI’ EQs and mastering, and most of the time, it doesn’t do the content justice. If you believe in yourself and/or your band, and you believe in your songs, back yourself for the win!
Don’t just try and get it out the door as quickly as possible! Sure, it’s nice to announce: “Here’s our new album”, but you’ll have a much better chance of expanding your fan base and selling more products if you spend that extra time refining your sound and your production. And that has nothing whatsoever to do with the style of music!
Case in point: if you think about an album like ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ by the Sex Pistols, you’ll see exactly what I mean. At the time it was released in 1977, a lot of people thought it was just a bunch of no-talents making noise… but if you listen to that album, you’ll see that it is, in every consideration, a brilliantly produced piece of work. And that made a huge difference in how many people ended up loving it – and buying it!
You were invited on stage to perform with legendary guitarist Steve Vai on his Australian tour. How did this opportunity come about?
I’ve been very privileged to play with many world-leading artists in a range of musical genres over the years in the US, UK, Europe and Australia, but I have to say, one of my absolute musical highlights was getting the opportunity to hop up on stage and jam with Steve Vai.
He was over in Australia doing some shows and had scheduled a clinic in Melbourne, so I jumped at the chance to get up close and study the playing of one of my idols and biggest influences for 3 hours. I knew the promoter, so I even managed to get a seat front row centre, so I was literally in guitar nerd heaven. (and yes, I paid for my ticket – I always do!)
Anyhow, the next morning I had to fly to Adelaide to do some production work. I’m in Adelaide, and I go to check into my hotel, and who should be sitting in the foyer of the hotel enjoying a cup of tea, but none other than Steve Vai.
Now, I normally wouldn’t be such an impulsive fan, but this is STEVE VAI… and he’s by himself, so I walk up and apologise for the intrusion, and let him know what a MASSIVE influence he has been on my playing and my career, and just to say thanks for generally being awesome! (you get it, basically rambling fan-speak, but what can I say… I’m a massive fan).
Ever gracious, Steve invited me to sit and chat a while, and it turns out we have a number of mutual industry friends and acquaintances. He asked if I was playing in Adelaide that night (I wasn’t) and I asked if he was playing (he was). The next minute, just as I’m wondering to myself if there were any tickets available to his Adelaide show, he asked if I’d like to come along and have a jam with him on stage!
At this point, I’m trying (and probably failing quite badly) to look cool, calm, and collected and casually mention that I don’t have any of my gear with me. Again, ever gracious, he says “That’s fine you can use one of my guitars”.
Long story short (or long really), later that evening, I found myself on stage at the Norwood Concert Hall in Adelaide jamming with one of my absolute heroes - playing one of his legendary black and mirrored JEMs - and trying to remember how to play. Luckily, I did apparently remember how to play, but to this day, I have absolutely no idea what I played! All I really remember about the night is looking over and thinking to myself, ‘YOU’RE ON STAGE JAMMING WITH STEVE VAI!!!’ (and yes, the voice in my head needed all caps, and at least that many exclamation marks).
Not only was it a highlight of my musical career, it always reminds me of something that I’d like to share with the readers, namely:
No matter how many records you've played on, how many concerts you've performed in, or how many fans you have
a) NEVER be too caught up in your own importance or think you’re too cool to BE A FAN; and
b) ALWAYS show respect to those who have influenced you – after all, they helped you get where you are.
Build your own style, blend all the influences, and do what you ‘feel’
Is there equipment you use, regardless if you are playing live or recording in the studio?
First and foremost, my DK Alloy Guitars. I have a specially designed road case that holds three guitars, and so I always have at least three of them with me – whether I’m in the studio or playing live. Each of them is slightly different in terms of pickups and wiring, but they’re all monster axes. They’re made right here in Melbourne, and they really are a world-beating design in terms of playability, sustainability, and lightweight build. They have also become somewhat of a trademark look for me too!
I must admit, I was a little skeptical when I first heard about it, but it is an absolute monster of a multi-effects pedal. It has a great range of stereo delays, compressions, drives, choruses, and wah-wahs (including a really high-quality, functional auto-wah), as well as cab and amp simulations if you need them. It also has a very handy ‘global EQ’ adjustment, which means I can reshape all of my presets with one edit if we are traveling or playing multi-band lineups where the backline amps are part of the setup. In fact, it’s that good, I bought a second unit as a spare in case something happens to my original unit in transit.
Take constructive criticism on board and build on it
Guitar players spend years trying to find their voice on the guitar. In your experience, how can guitar players improve their tone?
Simple… run your own race!
Everyone is influenced by someone, and most people are influenced by many. Use those influences to help structure your sound and develop your playing, but don’t spend your life trying to ‘be’ that person.
There is, and will only ever be ONE Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Randy Rhoads, Angus Young, Ace Frehley, Jimi Hendrix, etc, etc. Let their genius influence guide you, but don’t try to be them. Build your own style, blend all the influences, and do what you ‘feel’.
Find what you like in terms of guitars, amps, and effects, and then practice… and practice… and practice some more. And don’t be afraid to always push yourself and try new things. Just because you like hard rock or metal, doesn’t mean you can’t like blues, funk, or jazz.
Challenge yourself to be your best, and like I said earlier, back yourself for the win!
You have been recording and touring since the 1980s. Do you have any advice for young musicians about having a lasting career in the music business?
Firstly, be resilient... you’re going to get a lot of knockbacks and negativity, but you need to cop it on the chin, learn from it if it’s constructive criticism, and come back stronger.
If someone tells you ‘no thanks’, or ‘your music isn’t really what we’re looking for’, or even ‘you suck’, try not to take it personally. There could be any number of reasons for their response.
Importantly, try and take constructive criticism on board and build on it. If someone who really knows their stuff (a senior producer, etc.) comes back with some suggestions about how you might improve, don’t pay it off. Think about it, be extremely honest with yourself, and work out whether or not the criticism is valid or justified. And you do have to be honest with yourself! If the criticism is valid, take it and learn from it, if it really isn’t, put it aside, and move on.
Music is subjective. Something that works for you, may simply just not be working for someone else. That doesn’t make anyone wrong, it’s just a fact of life, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Even after this many years, there are probably plenty of people who probably think my playing sucks, but realistically, I don’t care. I play my best, try and learn new things every day and run my own race.
When it comes to playing in a band, I have two bits of advice:
1) Always try and surround yourself with the best people; and
2) Park your ego… it’s not all about you, it’s all about the band!
I’m certainly blessed in that aspect. Gen2 is one of those bands which is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, and I consider myself lucky to be part of it. Zac, Claude, and Greg are all super talented, super nice guys, and everybody plays a critical role. No one is carrying anyone. There’s no egos, no fighting, and no BS - we’re all just focused on making Gen2 the best band it can be.
Visit: www.linktr.ee/gen2music to access and stream all of Gen2’s audio and video content.
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